« AnteriorContinuar »
numerous other instances. The British Government appear, in fact, to refrain from contesting this fact. As these rules have for their object the protection, within limits, of the moral and material interests of neutrals, it must be pointed out that the British Government, far from showing special regard for the interests of neutrals, have, on the contrary, violated their rights. If it were desired to regard the measures taken by the British Government in the light of reprisals, justified by German measures, such justification would be void of meaning as towards neutrals. Reprisals can only be directed against an adversary; for this very reason, the rights of neutrals cannot be allowed to suffer through an alleged necessity of war.
In the note to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs which the
itish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs mentions in his reply, we did no more than state the undeniable fact that the XIth Hague Convention does not, from its tenor, apply to the present war. In the same note the Royal Government expressly declared that they did not wish to insist on this point. In these circumstances, and quite independently of the question of the substantial validity of the document in question, the Swedish Government are in no way precluded from appealing to the convention referred to, which has been invoked against Sweden by one of the allies of England, undoubtedly in agreement with her.
As to the Declaration of London, it will be enough to recall the fact that the Declaration, which was signed in London on the initiative of Great Britain, affirms in the preamble that "the rules contained in it correspond in substance to the generally recognized principles of international law." This affirmation, which the British Government would certainly not deny, is specially more particularly beyond challenge so far as concerns the rule by which goods "of current civil use" — such as india-rubber - cannot be classed as absolute contraband.
The Royal Government are unable to comprehend how the detention of postal packets on Swedish territory can be considered as a violation of the sovereignty of Great Britain, while the sovereignty of Sweden is not considered to be affected by operations of seizure carried out on board a Swedish vessel which had only entered English territorial waters owing to the measures taken by the British Government:
As regards the other points in the English note, the Royal Government remain equally unconvinced by the reasons adduced in opposition to their point of view.
They do not, however, consider it necessary to touch upon this subject here, preferring to seek in another direction a solution of the questions at issue.
The Royal Government, attaching great importance to preserving friendly relations with Great Britain and desiring, with this object in view, to do, on their part, everything compatible with the rights and interests of Sweden, have received with the greatest satisfaction the suggestion made in Sir Edward Grey's note that recourse should be had to arbitration in order to arrive at a solution.
In response to this, and in order to show their good will, the Royal Government are ready to release and forward to their destination the postal parcels at present detained in Sweden, on condition that the British Government on their part declare themselves ready to submit without delay to the decision of an arbitration tribunal in accordance with the Hague Convention and the Anglo Swedish Arbitration Treaty of the 11th August, 1904, renewed on the 9th November, 1914, the question of the legality of the measures taken up to the present by Great Britain with regard to postal parcels destined for Sweden or forwarded from that country, as well as the question of the consequences which may devolve from the solution of the first question.
If the British Government agree to have recourse to arbitration, the Royal Government venture to hope that, whilst they revoke the order for the detention of the English mail, the British Government on their part will, pending the arbitral award, refrain from measures such as those which have brought about the present differences, and so avoid to provoke fresh counter-measures.
I avail, &c.
Memorandum presented by Sir E. Howard to M. Wallenberg, Swedish
Minister for Foreign Affairs
His Majesty's Government are anxious to do anything they reasonably can to arrange in an amicable way the question which has arisen between them and the Royal Swedish Government respecting parcel mails. It seems to them, however, impossible on account of many obvious difficulties to agree to the proposal that the question should be submitted to arbitration during the course of the war.
His Majesty's Government consider that they have gone as far in the way of conciliation as it was possible to expect when they stated that they were ready to refer to arbitration after the conclusion of the war any question in which, in the opinion of the Royal Swedish Government, Swedish claims have not been justly dealt with by a judgment of the British Prize Court.
It is true that the Royal Swedish Government at the time when the blockade measures, instituted under the British Order in Council of the 11th March, 1915, came into force, notified His Majesty's Government that they did not recognize their validity in international law. But that they should now, nine months after these measures have been in operation, demand their immediate abandonment on pain of reprisals against British transit of mails to Russia, reveals an attitude which, considering that no reprisals have ever been suggested against the methods of warfare adopted by the enemies of Great Britain, whereby many Swedish vessels have been illegally destroyed and many innocent Swedish lives lost, can hardly be considered as logical or equitable, nor looked upon as one of strict and impartial neutrality.
The detention of a certain number of British parcel mails is not a matter of any great intrinsic importance, and the hardship thus inflicted on individuals can no doubt be corrected in due course by adjusting their claims for compensation; but, as long as it continues, it keeps alight a smouldering fire of irritation which may at any moment cause serious difficulties.
His Majesty's Government are very sincerely anxious, and they hope that the Royal Swedish Government are equally so, to maintain and increase the friendliness of the relations between the two countries, and for this reason they desire to put an end to this dispute.
His Majesty's Government finally point out that the Swedish Government, in agreeing to accept a judicial decision in the cases in dispute, would certainly not be acting in a manner inconsistent with the sovereignty of a neutral state, more particularly in view of the fact that if they succeed in establishing their claims before the prize courts, Swedish subjects will receive full compensation for any loss they may have suffered, and that in case they do not succeed in so
doing, it will always be open to the Royal Swedish Government to require the decision of the Prize Court to be renewed, and if found inequitable, reversed by a court of arbitration after the conclusion of the war.
STOCKHOLM, February 28, 1916.
M. Boström, Swedish Chargé d'Affaires, to Sir Edward Grey. –
(Received March 14)
SWEDISH LEGATION, London, March 13, 1916.
On the 28th February last His Britannic Majesty's Minister at Stockholm transmitted to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of His Majesty the King of Sweden a memorandum containing the reply of His Britannic Majesty's Government to Count Wrangel's note of the 11th February, 1916, relative to the detention of certain postal parcels. In accordance with instructions received, I have the honor to make the following communication to your Excellency in answer to the said memorandum.
The Swedish Government fully share the desire expressed by the British Government to maintain and strengthen the friendly relations between the two countries and to remove any grounds of friction.
It was with this view that the King's Government declared themselves prepared, if the British Government on their part accepted the proposal of arbitration without delay, to release the parcels mails detained in Sweden, and also expressed the hope that the British Government, pending the arbitral award, would refrain from taking measures which might cause new disputes and new counter-measures.
Very little would in fact be gained if, after the present grounds of friction had been removed, fresh cases of the same nature were immediately to arise and continue in uninterrupted sequence.
It is, unhappily, difficult to find in the British memorandum of the 28th February any ground for the hope expressed on the Swedish side of a change in the British practice. From the Swedish point of view, this only lends additional force to the objections which the
suggested postponement of a recourse to arbitration until after the war has encountered.
As to the suggestion put forward from the British side that a solution should be sought in legal process, i.e., that the decision of a British prize court should be invoked, the King's Government beg to submit the following considerations:
Firstly, experience has proved that - owing to circumstances of which the Swedish Government refrain from judging — the decisions of the British prize courts are, as a rule, not given for a very considerable time. So far as the Swedish Government are aware, none of the pending cases concerning the seizure of goods belonging to Swedish subjects have as yet been finally decided.
Secondly, the counsel representing the Government of His Britannic Majesty has maintained in the Prize Court that the court has no power to decide on the validity under international law of orders given by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, which applied in a case brought before it by the British military or other authorities. If this doctrine is upheld, there is evidently, however highly one may think of the spirit, learning, and impartiality of the Prize Court, no hope of success for a claim based upon the invalidity of such orders under international law.
Thirdly, the questions now at issue involve important points which could not be the subject of a direct decision by the Prize Court, and which could hardly be taken indirectly into consideration by the court among the grounds for a decision. If the King's Government are correctly informed, that court has to consider only such questions as have been brought before it by some British authority, and this has up to now not been the case so far as concerns, among other things, the British measures against the mails from Sweden to the United States of America.
These objections notwithstanding, the King's Government have welcomed with sincere satisfaction the suggestion of a friendly solution of present and future difficulties which is expressed in the statement that the British Government declare themselves "ready to refer to arbitration, after the conclusion of the war, any question in which, in the opinion of the Royal Swedish Government, Swedish claims have not been justly dealt with by a judgment of the British Prize Court."
Referring to this statement, as well as to the arbitration conven